October 10, 2018 / 7:19 PM / 2 months ago

Fairtrade ready to help food firms move to self-certification

* Fairtrade looks to coach companies on in-house certification

* Certifier working combat deforestation, child labour

By Ana Ionova

LONDON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - The Fairtrade Foundation said on Wednesday it wanted to help food companies create their own schemes to ensure farmers in developing nations were treated fairly, even if the firms want to drop the Fairtrade mark.

In return for using its logo, Fairtrade sets standards to ensure companies pay a minimum price for cocoa, coffee, tea, bananas and other goods so farmers in developing nations receive better returns and have a safety net if world prices slump.

But Fairtrade has seen several big buyers pull back from its mark and set up their own models for sustainable sourcing.

“There have been concerns expressed that big companies will not in the future be using the Fairtrade mark,” said Lord Mark Price, chairman of Fairtrade Foundation’s board of trustees.

“In those circumstances, the role of Fairtrade moves on. The role of Fairtrade is to help those organisations be the best they can be,” he said.

Mondelez International, owner of chocolate brands Cadbury and Toblerone, has gradually moved to its own “Cocoa Life” standard, developed with input from Fairtrade.

Sainsbury’s replaced the Fairtrade mark on its own-brand tea last year with its pilot “Fairly Traded” version, saying farmers received “above and beyond” what they were receiving under the Fairtrade scheme.

Fairtrade said it championed what it termed authentic and transparent self-certification and said it was ready to support companies in their efforts to develop robust in-house schemes.

“We’re not abandoning certification - far from it,” Fairtrade CEO Michael Gidney said. “What we are doing is we’re developing new ways of working with companies, large and small.”

The group was also taking steps to attract more companies to Fairtrade and was working to improve its standards on issues like child labour and deforestation, Gidney said.

Certification schemes have faced some criticism for not doing enough to tackle issues such as poverty, child labour and deforestation in supply chains, while firms have been criticised for trying to water down standards.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery said last month it would only increase cocoa volumes bought from independent certifiers if it saw improvements in the standards of such schemes.

But it said Fairtrade maintained that ensuring payment of a premium and a minimum price for goods to farmers was central to its model, especially as coffee and other commodity prices have plunged. (Reporting by Ana Ionova Editing by Edmund Blair)

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